Emergency Prohibition Against Importation of Certain African Tortoises
STATE OF FLORIDA
FISH AND WILDLIFE CONSERVATION COMMISSION
RULE NUMBER: 68A-ER-99-01
SPECIFIC REASONS FOR FINDING AN IMMEDIATE DANGER
TO THE PUBLIC HEALTH, SAFETY, AND WELFARE:
Heartwater is an acute tick-borne disease of domestic and wild ruminants including cattle, sheep, goats and deer. This disease is caused by the rickettsial bacterium Cowdria ruminantium which is transmitted by the ticks of the genus Amblyomma. Animals or wildlife that contact this disease have a mortality rate of between 40-100%. There is no officially recognized treatment or vaccine for the disease other than to control the introduction of the tick vectors. The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS) recently notified the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWCC) that 15 Ablyomma sparsum ticks collected from tortoises in Hillsborough County have tested positive for Cowdria ruminantium (Heartwater organism). Also, since 1997, nine reptile facilities in Florida have been found to have ticks capable of carrying Heartwater disease. The ticks primarily infect two African tortoises of the genus Geochelone, the African spurred tortoise (Geochelone sulcata) and the leopard tortoise (Geochelone pardalis).
The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DASC) has also filed an emergency rule to deal with animals imported from countries where Heartwater disease is endemic and the FWCC emergency rule will parallel DACS efforts to control introduction of this disease though importation of tick-infected wildlife. The DACS rule asserts that AThe introduction of the disease into Florida would be disastrous to the state’s beef and cattle industry and the state’s ruminant wildlife.
Therefore, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, vested by Article IV, Section 9, Florida Constitution, with the state’s executive and regulatory authority over wildlife, finds that there is an immediate danger to the public welfare if immediate action is not taken to prohibit the importation of the African spurred tortoise (Geochelone sulcata) and the leopard tortoise (Geochelone pardalis). The Commission also finds that this limited action is the best means to address the emergency and is in the best interests of the citizens of the State of Florida. It is the intent of the Commission to begin regular rulemaking to adopt permanent rules addressing this problem.
REASONS FOR CONCLUDING THAT THE PROCEDURE USED IS FAIR UNDER THE CIRCUMSTANCES:
The FWCC discussed this action at their regular meeting in Islamorada, Florida on December 9, 1999 and, at that public meeting, made the requisite findings of an emergency and that the rule procedure was fair. Given the need to act immediately to avert an infection of the state’s livestock and infection of other ruminants, this rule is fair.
The entire text of this emergency rule is to be published in the Florida Administrative Weekly and distributed to the Joint Administrative Procedures Committee of the Florida Legislature as required by Section 120.54(4), Florida Statutes. Notice of this action of the FWCC is being distributed to about 2,000 persons and organizations, including major state newspapers and electronic media, on the Commission’s mailing list.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission hereby finds that the procedures used to promulgate this emergency rule are fair under the circumstances.
SUMMARY OF THE RULE: This emergency rule will prohibit the importation into Florida two species of African tortoises, the African spurred tortoise (Geochelone sulcata) and the leopard tortoise (Geochelone pardalis).
A COPY OF THE EMERGENCY RULE MAY BE OBTAINED BY CONTACTING: James V. Antista, General Counsel, Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, 620 South Meridian Street, Tallahassee, Florida 32399-1600, (850) 487-1764.
THE FULL TEXT OF THE EMERGENCY RULE IS:
68A-ER-99-01. Emergency Prohibition Against Importation of Certain African Tortoises.
(1) No African spurred tortoise (Geochelone sulcata) or leopard tortoise (Geochelone pardalis) shall be imported or transported into the state.
Specific Authority Art. IV, Sec. 9, Fla. Const. Law Implemented Art. IV, Sec. 9, Fla. Const. s. 120.54(4), F.S.
EFFECTIVE DATE: December 17, 1999